Rozsály is 330 km away from Budapest, it is a small village in the Szabolcs region, with 777 inhabitants at the moment, but its municipality has its own infrastructure, locally grown crops are processed and the village has its own herd of swines, too. The village is very proud of its past, including the famously beautiful woven fabrics of Rozsály. “Here, in Rozsály, we do the same things we did fifty years ago, just a little bit differently,” said Zoltán Sztolyka – who graduated in Geography and History from the ELTE University, and has been the mayor of Rozsály since 2006 – in the first part of the Corvinus Researchers’ Night programme. There are not many villages in Hungary that can boast about having an ambulance service and a police station, a family doctor, a day care centre for the elderly, a hairdresser and a beautician in the village. They have their own shop with a farmers’ shelf, in the spirit of “Give a chance of one meter”. As Sztolyka explained, it is not only value-creating work that local people can pursue, but there is community life, too: a volleyball team, a folk dance and a drama group. Every year they organise an event called ROPI (Rozsály Picknick), which is not a village festival, as only people involved in the life of the village are allowed to come. “It’s not just a place to dwell, it’s a place to live,” said Sztolyka, whose main ambition is to build a real community in the village. He says: “Personal relationships are more important than anything else,” adding that he does not have a Facebook page, so anyone wishing to talk to him in the village can simply approach him, as he usually rides his bike.
Then István Németh delivered a lecture about what the Hangya (”Ant”) Cooperative was like before the war, and whether its spirit could be brought back to the present. As it is known, the Hangya Cooperative was established in 1898 as a network of production and sales cooperatives, the first of them having been founded on the initiative of Count Sándor Károlyi. In the 1930s, there were already two thousand cooperatives operating in the country, and Németh said that their spirit was useful. He said that Hangya distributed an incredibly wide range of products that were really needed in the whole country , while today, the way he sees it, large companies are using advertising to get customers buy products they may not need at all. Many people, according to Németh, do not even realise that they are living in an atomised state of vulnerability. The success of the Hangya movement is demonstrated by the fact that by 1938 (the last year of peace), the movement’s performance represented one third of the country’s GDP and almost half of the country’s population (or their family members) were members of the Hangya cooperative . This cannot be brought back, of course, but the speaker believes that the spirit of the Hangya could be useful today.
At the end of the thematic mini lecture series, László Zalatnay, founder of the Nyíregyháza Basket Community gave a presentation. As he said, domestic shopping communities have existed in Hungary for 12 years, the community at Nyíregyháza was the third to be established. The primary objective of these communities is to connect producers with local buyers, and volunteers help them do this. For this purpose, of course, an IT system had to be created, the producers involved in the community present their goods on their own websites, so they can market their goods, while customers can buy reliable, good quality goods and volunteers can establish new contacts in the course of their work. “With Community funding, one of our farmers has built a chicken farm, and the benefit here is that customers can buy good quality eggs from domestic hens,” Zalatnay explained. As he added, in France, they can address the production issues of a whole region in this way. In his opinion, this is the right way to go, because it means that the benefits of the money spent by customers on buying food will stay in the region and in the town, and will not be taken out of the country by multinational companies.